As our nation moves towards Election Day, we might consider our vote as just a political act. But it’s much more than that. Voting is a moral act. And it can be a powerful expression of our work for a better world for both ourselves and others — in other words, our commitment to the common good.
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What is the common good? The importance of the common good is reflected in the love and compassion of Jesus as well as in the teachings of the Hebrew scriptures that human beings have a divine spark within them and are made in God’s image. As brothers and sisters, we are called to serve the needs of one another with mutual affection. As Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians, “regard others as more important than yourself” (2:4).
Pope Francis gives us an overarching vision of the common good in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. He notes that:
“A community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good.” (67)
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These words are especially important in today’s world as we wrestle with so many challenges, which are falling particularly hard on the poor and vulnerable. Challenges like climate change, racism, joblessness and COVID-19 are pushing us to, as Pope Francis says, rebuild our communities by putting the needs of our vulnerable neighbors first.
Sometimes, politics makes us get caught up in passionate disagreement and divisiveness and we lose the ability to dialogue respectfully with those of differing views. We forget the deeper spirituality and concern for others that should ground our civic responsibility.
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We would do well to remember the Golden Rule: In everything do to others as you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12).
The Golden Rule is much more than being nice or polite. It’s about moving beyond ourselves and thinking more in terms of “we” than “me.” A spirituality of the Golden Rule can promote mutual understanding, harmony, and justice. Whatever our faith, as our spirituality takes on more depth, it ought to make us more attentive to the needs of others. Thinking about the common good becomes a habit.
Putting the common good at the center also helps us in discerning for whom we should vote. Who will empower our communities to care for the most vulnerable? Who has the character, competence and experience to enable all of us to meet our full potential?
As we approach Election Day, let’s remember that our vote is about so much more than just political parties or platforms or even individual candidates. It’s really about showing love for one another and doing our part for the common good.
Marcus McFadin is the pastor of Saint Luke Catholic Church in El Paso, TX.
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